Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I don't know if it is just me or the entire service, but, my mail host/spam filter was down for about 11 hours yesterday and has been down most of today. (Still down.) It appears that it is bouncing my mail with a error 500. If you have sent me any important mail in the last day or two, please send it to jito(at) or IM me at joi_ito(at)

This is the first time I haven't had access to my mail server directly and BOY IS IT FRUSTRATING. I'm going to take a look at moving my mail back under my own control. This really sucks. Does anyone know someone at All I have is a silly support email for them. I wish they had IM support like Earthlink. Ugh.

UPDATE: I'm starting to get really upset now... Why don't they even have an outage statement on their web page or their support page. Hello!?!

UPDATE 2: First of all. Thanks to everyone for their constructive comments. I DO have backup routes to divert my email, but the problem is that the server kept going up and coming down so I never knew when to "throw the switch". I don't like to keep backups spooling my mail because I travel a lot and I can't afford to download redundant mail or allow mailboxes to overflow. (I guess I could auto-delete old backup mail... hmm...)

Also, in the comments people pointed out that their CEO, Phil Goldman, recently passed away and might have something to do with this. I feel very bad about this and didn't realize it at the time. For this reason I have decided to cut them some slack.

Anyway, although my email to support@mailblocks didn't get a response and a call at night didn't reach anyone, I just called and stayed on the line past all of the messages about entering the extension number of the person you want to reach (of course I know no one there) and that I should email support messages (I did several times), I reached a human being. She was nice and when I told her that I was having problems she said that she had heard people were having problems and agreed to pass me over to tech support. The tech support guy was a pleasant guy and he told me that app1, my server, was having hardware problems and that although they didn't know when it would be fixed, that they were working on it. I suggested to him that they have an "outages" page with ETA's of when things might be fixed so they could calm people like me down and help us figure out whether we should be waiting or diverting our email. He said he had received this suggestion from several people they were considering it.

So, my position right now is that I still like the service very much and will continue using it. I will put better backups in place. They seem to be nice people, but they need to provide better support and I hope they figure this out.

FINAL (I HOPE) UPDATE: Seems to be working now. Switching back...


This evokes nostalgia for the old days of TWICS, circa 1994-95. Two or three days without mail was a monthly occurance.

You need to chill out about it though. There was life before email, and you'll survive without it for a little while.

I have to say that this makes them look REALLY bad so i hope that they fix it, cause this outage has definitely demotivated me from using the service. (::hint::hint:: oh google rank...)

Miquelle. Chill? Chill? I don't remember life before email. ;-) TWICS? That reminds me of acoustic couplers. ack. ;-)

Zephoria, I wish they would at least get in touch with me and tell me WTF is wrong and when it might get better. Even just some apology notice on their page would be exciting.

When I used to run PSINet in Japan, I remember that admitting when things weren't working well was one of our top priorities. Being out of touch with your customer when things are SNAFU is REALLY bad.

Hi Joi -- I posted a link on Scripting News to this message, in case anyone was tyring to email you and couldn't get through.

I was going to email you a link to this article but then I saw your post. I hope you read it, and I'd be interested in knowing what you think or if you have any questions.

Best wishes, Dave

Didn't their CEO just die suddenly?

Perhaps it has something to do with Phil Goldman's death? The company's employees must be in total shock - so sad.

Oy, I didn't put 2 & 2 together, guess neither did Joi.

Nope. Totally didn't put 2 & 2 together. Thanks Matt and Ray. I'll cut them some slack. That's a sad story. I still wonder how his death could affect the service quality, but I'll wait a bit more patiently.

Dave, read your stuff. I'm going to send you some email with some questions.

Well - I pretty much expected this to happen when I saw how the Mailblocks service worked, and didn't sign up for it because of it...

So my server, app1 is hosed and doesn't even respond to pings. app4 which a friend uses seems to be fine, so it appears to be a partial failure. I got their phone number, but it must be too early. No answer. "dial extension" or email I have a feeling that I might get the same thing during office hours... hmm..

they're in silicon valley. it's 7:15AM Monday morning right now here.

Seems like that sort of mail blocker service would be easy to code in principle (I even already have a project on sourceforge that does the captcha part), and spam blocking is certainly something the general public needs. I'm surprised there aren't any open source, community maintained sites that provide this service. Or are there?

well, it's why i'm cautious where my mail goes, or where it goes for spam reduction.

I'd suggest putting in more redundancy, so that in case something happens - you can quickly switch over to alternate means.

Most email systems already have this in place with backup MX systems, however sending it out for pre-processing (spam filtering) does now yet have this functionality.

Perhaps a incorporating a backup system similiar to MX's into a spam filter would be a good thing..?



It's folly to have only a single copy of mail if you are using any type of spam filter. You need redundancy, and then some. I use easyDNS, which lets me config where any mail to me is forwarded to; many other domain services let you do this. Send a message to me, and copies go to:

-- my main POP3 provider

-- a backup account at my ISP, which is grabbed by a Linux server beside my desk

-- another copy to another ISP account, grabbed by a different box

-- and yet another off to OddPost

Yah, redundant as heck, but when things go wrong, I always know there is a copy out there somewhere....particularly given that I've got different spam filters running on each one (i.e. my linux box runs spamassassin, while my Pop3 provider runs a different filter)

I just go through and do a mass delete every once in a while.

I'm no expert, but I can help you setup a mail server system, with bayesian junk filtering and blacklists, if you need it. :)

I'm on app2 with mailblocks, and that one's still up.

Actually, if you have access to your own web site, to the point where you have control of the SMTP connection, you can set up ASSP (Anti-Spam SMTP Proxy) to run between the SMTP port and the internet. This is one of the coolest and most effective Bayesian filtering schemes I've seen yet, and pretty easy to set up comparatively. for more info.

I was interested in mailblocks a few months back and then someone complained that the service was down for a couple of days with no explanation.

It's horrible that their CEO died but since this has happened before they should have a contigency plan that works. Otherwise customers will go away (and you'll get some bad press.)

I was able to pick up my mailblocks hosted mail over the last few days using a client email app and the IMAP mail server config.

I am now able to get on using the web client on appserver1 so it looks like everything's back online.

I use Outlook Express to accomplish Mailblocks style filtering with 2 simple "rules" using my "inbox", a "quarantine" folder, and an "add to address book" folder.

Rule 1. Check the address line on the incoming email for a "keyword" and if present add to the "Add to address book folder" and stop processing more rules
2. When mail arrives check to see if address is included in the OE address book, if not move the message to the "Quarantine" folder and send them an auto-reply message that states that a) I did not see their email and b) if they would like me to see it, please add the "keyword" to the subject line and respond to my message

This works really well. When I look at outlook express... my inbox only fills up with messages from folks who are in my address book. If someone is not in my address book, they get a note saying that I did not see their message and they can respond with the "keyword" in the subject that point they get routed to my "add to address book" folder where I can decide if I want to receive more emails from them or not.

My "quarantine" folder fills up with all kinds of spam that I never check unless I see a new message in my "add to address book" folder, which means that someone cared enough to reply one time to my "bounce" message.

Issues: 1) I have to hand copy the address book into the "rule" everytime I make a change to the address book. 2) Obviously would not work well if I was trying to run a business where I get a lot of email from prospective clients...but it works great for an individual like me who just wants to keep my inbox clean.

I had the same problem with SpamArrest. Service outages for 24 hours or more. The same thing drove me nuts. Access to the server for geeks is a must. Plus I have yet to see a good IMAP spam tool. SpamArrest uses an ugly POP method and I'm guessing MailBlocks does the same thing.

Although Mailblocks is a good outfit, I am DELIGHTED with ethe chalenge/response capabilities of TMDS, and open source solution. I even changed ISPs (to
just to get good TMDA support.

My personal email account that uses TMDA now has zero spam. I used to get maybe 150 a day.

I love challenge/response.
-ron jeffries

Although Mailblocks is a good outfit, I am DELIGHTED with ethe chalenge/response capabilities of TMDS, and open source solution. I even changed ISPs (to
just to get good TMDA support.

My personal email account that uses TMDA now has zero spam. I used to get maybe 150 a day.

I love challenge/response.
-ron jeffries

Here is an article on how to stop SPAM using challenge response with outlook express.

Either that is a sublime case of comment-spam combined with typosquatting by heavyboots in the comment above, or it's an innocent typo. vs

Jim C. I may not be the only one who is insanely curious at how you have 3 sets of your email. If you wouldn't mind sharing with us how you do that, I think we might all learn a thing or two. Thank you in advance!

Gen, I think you can do that with MX records, no?

You can't make email go to multiple places at one time via an MX record; MX just tells the remote MTA where to connect to for delivery for a given domain.

It sounds like his ISP is just forwarding to three different places -- not very redundant.

However, it's not supercritical to actually have an SMTP server listening continually, since most mailservers will try to resend for five days when there's a failure.

The problem is, the "mass delete" that Jim talks about has to happen quite often or your inbox overflows and spams people with bounced mail. For instance, my tmail box if unfiltered for spam won't last a day without a purge. If you send to multiple mailboxes, it increases the possibility that one of your servers dies and starts bouncing. The problem with bouncing is that even if you get the email in one of your boxes, everyone thinks you didn't get the email and starts to panic.

The problem with this particular mailblocks outage was that it bounced the email instead of just not allowing a connection, otherwise, as Joshua points out, the server would have just kept retrying for a few days. My feeling is that some of them are queued up somewhere and some got bounced...

Although I am assuming that these issues are unrelated, a separate spam white list service, is currently down as of this posting. Seems odd, this confluence of events, but I assume it is just coincidence.

Joi, I also found this not-so-flattering portrait of Mailblocks.
Goldman certainly didn't seem like a reasonable man while he was alive.

Mercury News | 04/05/2003 | Spam foe puts his own interests first

Just ran across your message board, From what I understand Phil pass away on Christmas Day. The Servers went down on the Second and came up between the 5 and 7th. Just wanted to let you know I use

I'm happy with my service and one big point they have live people to talk to during working hours.

Joi - your mail is bouncing again because it says that your Mailblocks account is full.

If you switch back to your own email server, install TMDA on it (which almost replicates Mailblocks service, except for the trackers, which I love so dearly). Down again today, and no sign of coming back to life :(

Maybe you should send a letter or e-mail of complaint to PC World who just gave Mailblocks2 a glowing recommendation in their latest issue.

I agree with Bill. Maybe you (we) should really send the email to PC World...
I also use Malblocks, and I know how you feel. If you are still using them, chances are that today you can't access the email.

Has anyone found a contact phone # for mailblocks? I am receiving harassing emails from someone who has an account with them and I cant get any info on who it is..would appreciate any help

(650) 947-9361

It's down again!

Still down. It's been two weeks now! Called AOL and their tech support was lost about how to resolve Mailblocks issues. Called AOL corporate communications and the person said that they don't normally handle this but that shw would call her Mailblocks contact in California. I gave her my phone number, but have not heard a thing back.

Mailblocks is a lot like using the internet was in the early 1990s: Unreliable, slow, and of limited value. I have sent customer 'support' a dozen e-mails about their truely terrible reliability. I believe their laughable service is approaching legend.

I encourage everyone to drop Mailblocks as an e-mail provider. I like Earthlink, GMail, and even hotmail more than mailblocks. Remember: Mailblocks has been paid, and they have not delivered. Demand a refund.

“Mailblocks email service will be discontinued on November 16, 2005. Once the account is closed, there will be no way to gain access to the account and all the data will be permanently deleted.”

granted 30 days is waht is required but jeez…


“The Mailblocks Team has been busy creating the next generation free email service, called AIM Mail. AIM Mail is a free web-based email service with a sleek interface and a client-like feature set, based on Mailblocks technology that you’ve grown to love. ”

ok…no challenge response….AOL sucks ass

I give them credit for at least offering a full refund. I don't need it because I feel I've gotten my $25s worth.


Sad to see them go. Nothing else like it out there that I've been able to find. I'm not angry like some people -- just saddened to see a great product get taken away.


Spam Arrest is offering any mailblock user a free 90 day trial of its service using the following link;

Spam Arrest offers IMAP/POP accounts, 1 GIG storage, and SPF and Spam detection.

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Joi Ito mentions his problems with his Mail Filter provider. Mailblocks filters your email from up to 10 different email accounts. They say they can do something about false positives. Read More